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Industrial emissions

Factory or refinery chimneys

Emissions from a wide range of industrial activities are regulated mainly through a framework currently set out in the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 (“EPR”). Details of EPR can be found on the Environmental Permitting page.

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Key facts and figures

Larger industrial installations (some 3,500) are subject to integrated controls upon all likely significant emissions. As well as requirements relating to resource efficiency, accidental emissions and installation site restoration. Most are regulated by the Environment Agency and are often referred to as “Part A(1)” activities. Local authorities regulate some 400, these are often referred to as “Part A(2)” activities.

Smaller installations, some 19,000, are subject to controls on emissions to air and are regulated by more than 300 local authorities in England. These activities are often referred to as “Part B”.

Regulators’ costs are met through annual charges for the permits which each regulated installation must have in order to operate legally. The charging schemes are approved annually by Ministers.

The background and current situation

Legislative controls on pollutant emissions from industry in the UK originated in the mid 19th century. The Environment Protection Act 1990 was the immediate forerunner of the current framework, consolidating controls on emissions to air from generally smaller installations and introducing integrated pollution control for the larger installations with generally greater pollution potential. The system of integrated pollution control was largely embodied in the 1996 IPPC Directive.

The current framework has within its foundations the concept of “best available techniques” (BAT) for dealing with potential pollution. Under this, the conditions in each installation’s permit have to be based upon the application of BAT relevant to the industry sector concerned. Voluminous European guidance on BAT is available (the “BREFs”), although decisions on what are BAT and the resulting permit conditions are for each regulator to take.

The proposed Directive on industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control) (recast) may enter force around the end of 2010 and will combine the IPPC and related Directives into one. BAT requirements will become more emphasised and some activities will become newly subject to IPPC, but the framework of the current Directives as implemented within the UK will otherwise remain mostly unchanged.

Relevant legislation and regulations

Key publications and documents

Page last modified: 7 March 2011